Revised Joint Ministerial Decrees on Construction of Houses of Worship

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On 21 March 2006, the Indonesian Ministers of Religious Affairs and Home Affairs issued a decree that is commonly referred to as the Joint Decree on Houses of Worship. The decree issued as Ministry of Religious Affairs decree No. 9 of 2006 and Ministry of Home Affairs decree No. 8 of 2006.[1][2] A translation of the full title is "Regulation of Duties of Regional Head and Deputy in Maintaining Religious Harmony, Empowering the Forum of Religious Harmony, and Constructing Places of Worship".

Background[edit]

The decree is a revision of a joint decree[3] issued in 1969 by the Indonesian Home Affairs Minister and Religious Affairs Minister and which covers building houses of prayer. In 1967-1969, churches were attacked, sometimes destroyed, on Sumatra, Sulawesi, and Java. These violent episodes appeared to have been triggered by construction of buildings for religious minorities. In response, on 13 September 1969, the Ministers of Religion and Home Affairs issued Joint Ministerial Decree 1/1969 to control construction of places of worship and to govern religious practices in general.[4][5]

Requirements[edit]

According to Article 14 of the 2006 decree, a permit for constructing a house of worship should issue when the applicant obtains:

  • a list of 90 members of the proto-congregation;
  • signatures from 60 local households of a different faith;
  • a written recommendation from the regency or municipal religious affairs office;
  • a written recommendation from the local interfaith harmony forum (FKUB[6]); and
  • approval from the subdistrict head.

Article 14 requires local governments to find an alternative or temporary venue for services if the group cannot meet one of the requirements. Article 21 requires that local governments fairly mediate disputes.[7][8][9]

Concerns[edit]

While the government of Indonesia asserted that the purpose of the 2006 decree was to reduce inter-faith conflict, many persons and organizations assert that the decree is unconstitutional,[7][10] is contrary to treaties ratified by Indonesia, and has increased inter-faith conflict and the ability of a region's majority faith to suppress other faiths.[2][11][12][13] Others note that the decree's requirements create opportunities for corruption.[14]

Specific concerns raised regarding the 2006 decree include:

  1. Aggressive religious organizations apply pressure on and pay locals to not sign or rescind signatures of petitions.
  2. The FKUB is not an elected body and is dominated by the local majority religion. Where such majority practitioners are intolerant of other religions, the FKUB effectively vetoes construction of minority religious buildings.[10][15]
  3. Aggressive religious organizations apply pressure on regional entities to not provide recommendations or approve permits for which applicants have otherwise qualified.[15]
  4. Even if all requirements are met, certain officials have stated that they will not issue permits if any local objections remain.
  5. Even if the permit is issued, vociferous responses from militant groups have caused local officials to rescind permits or to not protect the applicant's ability to construct or use the building.
  6. After using FKUB or political influence to prevent issuance of a permit, extremist groups use failure to obtain a permit as a pretext for attacking the applicant congregation when it attempts to meet at the site or elsewhere.

On the other hand, some (including minority religious organizations) have suggested that the 2006 decree is better than nothing. Such organizations note that the decree provides a minority religious organization with at least a legal argument that it is entitled to a permit.[15] Such commentators suggest that the decree would be acceptable if implemented in a consistent and expedited manner, with charges of "disturbance of public order" applied to opposing vigilantes rather than applicants. Further, certain regions appear to be encountering less inter-faith strife than others.[16]

See also[edit]

Freedom of religion in Indonesia

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ropi, Ismatu (1 January 2007), "Regulating worship", Inside Indonesia, no. 89, pp. 7–8, retrieved 3 September 2011
  2. ^ a b "Research Response IDN31419 (Indonesia)" (PDF). Country Advice. Sidney, NSW: Refugee Review Tribunal. 9 March 2007. pp. 5–. Retrieved 13 October 2011.
  3. ^ Surat Keputusan Bersama Menag dan Mendagri Nomor 1/1969. Also referred to as "Joint Decree of the Minister of Religious Affairs and the Minister of Home Affairs No.1/BER/MDN-MAD/1969 concerning the Implementation of the Task of Government Officials to Ensure the Order and Undisturbed Implementation of the Religious Development and Practices by its Adherents".
  4. ^ Crouch, Melissa (2010). Peter A, Jackson (ed.). "Implementing the Regulation on Places of Worship in Indonesia: New Problems, Local Politics and Court Action". Asian Studies Review. 34 (4): 403–419. doi:10.1080/10357823.2010.527921. ISSN 1467-8403.
  5. ^ USCIRF Annual Report 2009 - The Commission's Watch List: Indonesia, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, 1 May 2009, retrieved 14 October 2011, Local government officials also have sought to mediate between militant groups and religious minorities in some cases, but sometimes acquiesce to pressure from militants and revoke permits for longstanding places of worship or allow the destruction of religious venues operating without permits. In response to persistent criticism from religious minorities and international observers over the number of religious venues closed or destroyed in Indonesia, the Ministry of Religion issued Joint Ministerial Decree 1/2006 to replace a previous, vaguely-worded decree that required religious groups to gain "community approval" before they could expand, renovate, or open new religious venues.
  6. ^ Joint Forum for Religious Tolerance or Forum Kerukunan Umat Beragama in Indonesian
  7. ^ a b Ridwan Max Sijabat (15 September 2010). "Govt told to revoke decree on houses of worship". The Jakarta Post. Includes translated portions of Articles 13, 14, and 21.
  8. ^ "Indonesia". 2006 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. 6 March 2007. Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: c. Freedom of Religion. Retrieved 8 October 2011. On March 21, the ministers of religious affairs and home affairs signed a joint ministerial decree on the establishment of houses of worship, which replaced a 1969 joint ministerial decree, and declares that a permit for a house of worship can be issued if it is petitioned in a signed statement by at least 90 congregation members and 60 other community members. The petition must then be approved by both the local head of the Religious Affairs Department and the local office of the Communication Forum for Religious Harmony. The joint ministerial decree was in part a response to attacks on unregistered houses of worship. The decree was intended to make it easier to open houses of worship by reducing the number of other community members who must sign the petition. Some groups criticized the new rules for retaining the requirement that community members consent to establishment of houses of worship. These groups also noted that the high number of congregation members required to sign the petition limited the ability of small congregations to register and to exercise their constitutional right to freedom of worship.
  9. ^ USCIRF Annual Report 2009 - The Commission's Watch List: Indonesia, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, 1 May 2009, retrieved 14 October 2011, Decree 1/2006 requires a religious group with a membership of more than 90 persons to obtain the support of 60 local residents for any plans to build or expand a religious venue. That petition must then be sent to the Joint Forum for Religious Tolerance (FKUB), a provincial panel of religious leaders chosen proportionally by the number of religious adherents in the province. If there remains strong community opposition to the religious venue, the FKUB can find an alternative location.
  10. ^ a b Mengenali Lokus Diskriminasi dalam PBM Dua Menteri [Recognizing Locus of Discrimination in the Joint Ministerial Regulation] (PDF), Bendungan Hilir, Indonesia: SETARA Institute, 23 September 2010, p. 6, retrieved 13 October 2011, The Joint Ministerial Decrees are flawed constitutionally since they are contrary to the guarantees of the freedom enshrined in the Indonesian Constitution. In addition to discriminative provisions the Decrees have, the existence of the Joint Ministerial Decrees also reduce the norms stipulated in the Constitution.
  11. ^ Pasandaran, Camelia (5 October 2010). "Controversial Decree on Indonesian Houses of Worship to Become Law: Ministers". The Jakarta Globe. Despite intense public criticism of a 2006 joint ministerial decree requiring neighbors' approval for houses of worship, ministers on Monday said the government planned to make it a law. * * * The decree, issued by the ministries of religious affairs and home affairs, requires a religious group to obtain the approval of at least 60 households in the immediate vicinity before building a house of worship. It has been criticized for making it almost impossible for minority faiths to build houses of worship in the world's largest Muslim-majority nation. * * * Calls to amend the decree resurfaced following recent mob violence against several protestant churches and their congregations in several areas of West Java, including Bekasi, Karawang and Bogor.
  12. ^ USCIRF Annual Report 2009 - The Commission's Watch List: Indonesia, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, 1 May 2009, retrieved 14 October 2011, At the time, critics of the decree claimed that it was designed to stop the proliferation of "house churches" and small Hindu temples (of fewer than 90 members). Prominent Muslim religious leaders have stated publicly that the new decree might violate Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Overall, the number of church, temple, and mosque closures has declined slightly since Joint Ministerial Decree 1/2006 was issued. In addition, over the past year, the Ministry of Religion has made efforts to establish provincial FKUB panels. Former President Abdurrahman Wahid has commended the "sincere efforts" of FKUB panels to promote religious tolerance, but added that without sufficient "control, evaluation, monitoring ... and sanctions" the panels can be "used to promote the interests of the majority religion." Indeed, despite the existence of FKUB panels, Hindu and Christian groups report that they are sometimes refused building permits even though they have accumulated the necessary signatures. For example, five Protestant churches in North Bekasi, Jabotabek region, East Jakarta continue to face vandalism and sporadic protests from the group Musholla (Cooperating Bureau of Mosques and Praying Rooms) because they meet in private homes. Although police continue to protect the worship activities of these groups, local officials have refused to grant them permission to build permanent structures, despite their having met the criteria established in the 2006 decree. A similar situation occurred in South Rawa Badak, Koja region, North Jakarta in August 2008, when local officials pressured the pastor of a Protestant church to cease worship activities, despite his having received permission from the FKUB to operate the church.
  13. ^ Saraswati, Muninggar Sri (29 March 2006). "Group goes to court against places of worship decree". The Jakarta Post. Jakarta, Indonesia. Retrieved 22 October 2011. Minority groups of Christians and Muslims are seeking judicial review of the new decree on houses of worship that they say will obstruct them from practicing their faiths. The request was submitted Tuesday to the Supreme Court by the Defense Team for Religious and Faith Freedom (TPKB), a group of lawyers of different faiths. 'We want it annulled. The decree is against the Constitution, the Human Rights Law and the principles of freedom to exercise one's religion and faith,' group leader Saor Siagian said after filing the appeal.
  14. ^ "Ministerial decree on houses of worship used for extortion". The Jakarta Post. 18 September 2010. Chairman of the Bekasi Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI Bekasi) Soaduon Napitupulu said 'everyone wants their share. The interfaith forum members, the city administration officials, not to mention thugs, and even some members of the community,' he told The Jakarta Post Friday.
  15. ^ a b c Indonesia: "Christianisation" and Intolerance -- Asia Briefing No.114 (PDF), Brussels: International Crisis Group, 4 November 2010, pp. 9–12, retrieved 14 October 2011, The refusal of local residents to support the congregation led many in HKBP, rights groups and others to say that the 2006 joint ministerial regulation was discriminatory, violated the right to religious freedom and should be revoked. Believers should be able to worship where they pleased, they argued, and proportional representation on the religious harmony forums ensured that the majority could always block minorities.
  16. ^ "Papuans build interreligious harmony". Interfaith News. Regional Interfaith Network. 14 February 2011. Minority religions in the Mimika district of Indonesian Papua say they have never encountered difficulties in building worship places in the predominantly Protestant province. Muhammad Amin, chairman of the local Indonesian Ulema Council, told ucanews.com that the local government in the district facilitated the building of places of worship including churches, mosques and temples. "We maintain interreligious relations and religious leaders have ensured that their followers have a good understanding of other religions," the Muslim scholar said. Although Protestants are the largest religious community in Papua, they have never discriminated against Muslim and other religious communities, he continued. "Even if there was a problem, they could resolve it through interreligious dialogue," he added. According to Amin, interreligious conflicts in other regions of Indonesia are the result of a lack of religious understanding. "Such conflicts only cause losses," he said, expressing the hope that tensions will not arise among people in the district. Referring to a 2006 joint ministerial decree on the building of worship venues, Amin noted that the decree helps to maintain good interreligious relations. It should not be revised, replaced or revoked, he stated. Piter Rada, who heads the district's office of religious affairs, agreed. "Thank God that there were no religious conflicts triggered by the building of worship venues," he said. Meanwhile, Sacred Heart of Jesus Father Bernardus Kedang of St. Peter's Church in Karang Senang lauded religious leaders who have encouraged their followers to maintain harmony and tolerance. However, he suggested that the joint ministerial decree should be reviewed to ensure that religious conflicts will not recur in other parts of the country.